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FBI Cyberinvestigators Track Criminal Computer Activity

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CHARLOTTE — The "Love Bug" virus and other threats to national security are keeping FBI agents busy, including those in theCharlotte office, which houses one of 16 cybercrime-fighting units in the country.

Eight agents, including several from Raleigh, operate out of the Charlotte office. They are specially trained to track and catch those who use computers and the Internet to commit all kinds of crimes.

After Lowe's stores in Salisbury and Asheboro were bombed, the FBI computer crime squad in Charlotte traced bomber George Rocha through Internet transactions.

Squad Seven monitors cybercrime and tries to trace criminals as attacks are under way.

"With the number of agents that we have, we try to each have kind of a specialty area with different operating systems, different kinds of networks," says Supervisory Special Agent Doris Gardner.

Once a computer is taken for evidence, the forensic lab duplicates or "images" the information on all drives.

"We will take that image and look through it for investigative purposes to look for the specific evidence that we're looking for," Gardner says.

The squad is involved in theLove Bug investigationto help build a case for prosecution.

"We're asking each of the people who've been a victim of the virus and opened it and had files deleted to inform us here in the FBI what their loss is," Gardner says.

FBI computer crime units pursue white-collar crime, hackers and guard against attacks on the nation's infrastructure.

"We have a whole new area of investigation, a whole new area of concern which probably takes precedence over our more traditional areas," says Chris Swecker, North Carolina Special Agent in Charge.

The FBI says it wants to partner with Information Technology professionals to battle cybercrime.

The Charlotte squad is growing quickly, recruiting computer scientists and specialists.

The squad will soon become an expanded part of the FBI's "Innocent Images" campaign against child pornography. Agent Doris Gardner helped start the program six years ago in Baltimore.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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